Cornish Game Hens


Cornish Game Hens are one of my favorite things to make and one of the easiest. I don't know why I don't make them more often, I think I just always forget about them for some reason. When Joey brought a couple home the other day I was thrilled. Not only because I love them, but also because they are cheap! Only $.99 a pound! We got two hens for only about $3.00.

They are super simple to make. You start out with the main cooking instructions below and add your own twist. This time I used an apricot glaze that was simple and delicious, but there are many, many other ways to make them.

Another great thing about Cornish hens is that you can make as few or as many as you like. For this recipe I made two.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish Game Hens (about 1 - 1/4 pound each)
  • 1/2 cup Apricot Jam
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Clean and truss hens and place on a rack in a roasting pan.
  3. In a small bowl, mix jam, soy sauce, mustard and honey. Set aside.
  4. Roast hens for about 1 hour or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife and a meat thermometer registers 170°.
  5. About 15 or 20 minutes before the hens are done, brush the glaze over the hens.

Notes

I find Cornish Game Hens to be the perfect "test" kitchen for testing out new basting methods. They are cheap and you really can't go wrong.

Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts


Brussels sprouts. Even the name is not that appealing. I never once had these growing up and as an adult feared them. I don't know what I thought they would taste like, but I knew it couldn't be good. I carefully avoided these things until my 40s when I saw Tyler Florence make them on Tyler's Ultimate. Now it's no secret that that man could probably make kitty-poo on toast and I would try it, so why not Brussels Sprouts?

This recipe was the perfect introduction to this amazingly delicious vegetable. They are just like little yummy cabbages, but heartier. I am hooked.

This is a fairly easy recipe and I highly recommend it whether you have tried Brussels sprouts or not.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, washed,trimmed, and cut in half
  • 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) bacon, cut into small squares
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs thyme, leaves only, chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Take a large pan and set over medium-high heat.
  3. Add bacon and cook until fat renders - 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the smashed garlic clove, thyme sprigs and Brussels sprouts and cook gently until slightly caramelized.
  5. Add stock and reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Season with salt and a little pepper, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until tender.
  7. Remove lid and add a splash of vinegar and reduce until syrupy - 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. After Brussels sprouts are done cooking, put them in oven safe dish.
  9. In a large bowl toss panko with rosemary, thyme leaves and chopped garlic, then drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.
  10. Sprinkle panko mixture and Parmigiano over Brussels sprouts and bake in a hot oven until golden and crispy.


Notes

If you have birds, they LOVE LOVE LOVE uncooked Brussels Sprouts. I chop off the ends and peel off each layer like little pieces of lettuce. They all go nuts! Brussels Sprouts are also very good for them, so pick up a few extras for your little feathered friends.

Maple Sweet Potato Puree with Carmelized Onions


Joey and I have really been trying to eat a bit more healthily. It's not really working, but we are trying. One thing that we have recently started experimenting with is sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are not really something I ever ate growing up, even at Thanksgiving. Even when I did have at friend's homes on the holidays I really didn't love them. They were always SO sweet.

Oprah has recently been singing the praises of sweet potatoes so I thought we could give them a go. First we just baked them - pretty tasty! Next we tried mashing them. Again, tasty! Sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes. Besides simple starches, sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene (a vitamin A equivalent nutrient), vitamin C, and vitamin B6. All that in a potato!

We were watching 5 Ingredient Fix with Claire Robinson and she was preparing an amazing meal and this recipe was on the menu. I wasn't sure if I trusted Claire yet, but she grew on me and I decided to try this recipe. Oh my, it's a keeper!

I was concerned that these would be really sweet because of the maple syrup, but they aren't at all. Combined with the onions it's just right. Adding the maple syrup to the onions really makes them a beautiful color. If you notice from my picture, my sweet potatoes are white. I have no idea why, they are just way. It's kind of nice for them to be that way if you are trying to substitute them for regular mashed potatoes. Visually it seems to work better.

This is one recipe I will be making again and again and I am sure you will, too. Also, be sure to check out Claire's show on Food Network. She has a lot of great recipes.

Ingredients

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into rough chunks
  • 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided in 1/2
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Hot water (or stock - vegetable or chicken)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place sweet potatoes, 1/4 cup of the maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large mixing bowl. Toss to evenly coat and place on sheet tray.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft. Be sure to check on them after 15 minutes and stir, if needed.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  5. Add the sliced onion, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Saute until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  8. Transfer sweet potato mixture to a food processor, (may need to be done in batches) and add about a tablespoon of hot water or stock. (Add water or broth, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the pan becomes dry.)
  9. Pulse until just blended and then add half the caramelized onions.
  10. Pulse just a few times until desired consistency, adding more hot water for a smoother puree.
  11. Fold in remaining caramelized onions, reserving some for garnish.
  12. Serve in a warm dish and garnish with the reserved caramelized onions.
Notes

I wanted my potatoes really creamy so I added a lot of broth. I used broth instead of water as the original recipe stated because it gives it much more flavor. I used chicken, but vegetable would work just as well.

Bodum Brazil Coffee Press


I love a good cup of coffee. I love the way it tastes; the way it warms me up; and, most of all I love that caffeine buzz you get. It really is the perfect way to start the day. However, I must admit since I started telecommuting, I had given up on having a good cup of coffee until now the Bodum Brazil Coffee Press. This little gem has changed my at home coffee life.

Let's start at the beginning. I have a very pricey Cuisinart coffee maker that also grinds the coffee for you. When I saw it, I really HAD to have it. (I am a total appliance whore.) I had something similar when I lived in Japan and I loved it, so I was certain this would be the same. Nope. After two years of the blandest coffee ever, I just gave up. It had to be the coffee beans I was buying. I kept hoping Mrs. Olsen would show up and show me how to make the richest mountain-grown coffee, but alas, she never did. I tried everything but I figured I was destined to never have good coffee at home.

I was driving to work one day and my colleague said that he used a French coffee press. I thought that was really fancy and not something I would do. Of course I looked it up when I went home and Amazon obviously knows me because it only showed me the most expensive coffee presses available. $50.00?!!! No way! I had my fancy coffee maker already. I am not going to spend more money on something that I didn't even know would work.

When Joey and I went to Monterey, I commented on how amazing the coffee was at the B&B we were at and how my colleague had said he used a coffee press. That was it and I forgot about it. The next week my Teddy came home with the Bodum Brazil Coffee Press. I was concerned he spent too much, but it was only $20.00 at Target! Let me tell you, that is $20.00 well spent. It makes the most amazing coffee.

I already had a Krups coffee grinder that I have had for almost 20 years. (I got it in 4th grade. :-) So luckily I could still use my coffee beans. The first time I used the press I was in heaven. The best coffee ever right in my own home!



The coffee press is very easy to use:

  • Just grind your coffee coursely (or have it ground that way) 1 spoonful for every 4 oz. of water.
  • Place it in the press
  • Add boiling water and stir with a plastic or wooden spoon
  • Place the lid on and let steep for 4 minutes
  • Press down
  • Enjoy the best coffee ever
I am really happy with this coffee press. So much so that my coffee maker has disappeared somewhere into Joey's storage realm. If you want it, it's yours!

Chicken Katsu


Everyone has their special go-to meal and mine is chicken katsu. This is one of the very few dishes I can make without a recipe. In fact, I never even had a recipe for it.

I started making this years ago in Japan and my dear friend Carla taught me. At that time I could barely make toast so this was all sorts of challenging for me. However, Carla was very patient, even when I called her 100 times with the same question. I owe a lot of my cooking skills to Carla, so every time I make this dish I fondly think of her.

Almost everything in this recipe comes from things I have on hand in my pantry, but everyone stocks their kitchen differently, so you might not have everything, but you should have most.

Panko, or Japanese breadcrumbs, used to be rather hard to find, but now seem available in almost every grocery store in the Asian food section. I am seeing them used more and more on the Food Network, so I am assuming they are readily available. Panko is made from bread without crusts and tends to be lighter, crispier, and crunchier than western bread crumbs. They are more coarsely ground than western bread crumbs and tend to absorb less grease and stay crispier longer. They also have a more flake-like quality. When you fry with Panko, the result is lighter than with western breadcrumbs that hold on to the grease. Panko is not particularly flavorful, but absorbs or compliments the flavor of your food. I love it for breading food and it's also tasty on top of casseroles drizzled with butter.

Tonkastu sauce is used as a dipping sauce with this recipe. "Ton" means pork and "katsu" is cutlet. This recipe originated as pork cutlets and works just fine with pork. However, I have always preferred it with chicken. I can buy this sauce easily in San Francisco, but I am not sure you can get it everywhere. It's a kind of thick Worcestershire sauce that uses pureed apples as a principal ingredient. It is not at all tangy like barbeque sauce and has a very pleasing unique flavor. If you can't find it in your local store you can order it online or try one of the numerous recipes online for it.

For me, the key to making this correctly is pounding the chicken to about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick and heating the oil to the right temperature - about 350° F. Be careful, the oil takes much longer to heat up than one would think.

I always serve this with white rice, miso soup and tsukemono (Japanese pickles). You can really skip the tsukemono, but you need the rice and the miso soup is really nice and is another easy to find staple in the Asian food section.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil (about 32 oz.)
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs - beaten
  • 2 cups Panko
  • Tonkatsu sauce
  • Prepared white rice
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet preheat the vegetable oil to 350° over medium high heat. You should have about 1 1/2 - 2 inches of oil. (This takes about 15 minutes)
  2. Put a large piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board and place chicken in the right half. Fold the left half over the chicken.
  3. Using a mallet (or other item) pound out the chicken to about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Pound from the middle out to the side
  4. Place flour, eggs and panko into separate bowls.
  5. Creating an assembly line, coat the chicken breast in flour, then egg then panko. Use one had for the dry ingredients and the other for the eggs
  6. When the oil is hot enough, place the two breast of chicken at a time gently into the oil using tongs. (Don't do this with you hand. Been there. Done that. Learned a lesson.)
  7. Cook chicken about 3 - 4 minutes or until golden brown. (If you have less oil you are going to need to turn the chicken over. Also, the chicken does continue to cook when you take it out so the key is "golden")
  8. Place chicken on paper towels to drain.
  9. Cut chicken into 1/2 inch strips and place over white rice.
  10. Drizzle a bit of Tonkastsu sauce over the chicken for a dramatic look.
  11. Serve with a dipping bowl of Tonkatsu sauce, miso soup and a huge portion of white rice. If you have it, a bit of tsukemono would be awesome.

Notes

This breading works on almost every meat and is amazing on oysters. I went on a huge deep-fried oyster kick in Japan and served it with a simple dipping sauce of jarred salsa and sour cream. YUM!

Boy this sure makes me miss Carla. I think I need to email that woman right now!

Easy Hummus


One of the hardest things about trying to diet is what to snack on. I mean we all get munchy during the day and they do say lots of small meals are better than one or two big ones.

I have always loved hummus, but I never thought of making it at home until I found a recipe in my favorite Weight Watchers cookbook, Take-Out Tonight. They have a very easy and figure-friendly recipe in there that I have modified a bit. Now while this is probably not "real" hummus, it's pretty darn tasty. I love the lemon in this recipe. It really provides a brightness. For an extra kick I add a few slices of jarred jalapeños.

This is a great snack, with pita bread, carrot sticks, celery or endive.

Ingredients

  • 2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic (3 at the most - be careful)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste (about two good pinches)
  • 5 slices jarred jalapeño peppers (optional)
Instructions
  1. Drain and rinse garbanzo beans, reserving the canned liquid.
  2. In food processor or blender, combine garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, cumin, and salt. Blend until mixed.
  3. With food processor running gradually add about 2/3 cup of the reserved liquid through the feed tube and process until very smooth. (Add more or less depending on consistency.)
  4. Add five slices of jarred jalapeño peppers. (This is just the right amount for a nice kick.)

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad


I found this recipe in Gourmet magazine when I first started to really cook. For me this was way fancy. I honestly had never made anything like this. This recipe is actually the reason I bought an iron cast skillet. It was worth it! It's always a show stopper. It's not only tasty but it also has a great presentation. Pork tenderloin is really so delicious and combined with the avocado, fruit, cabbage and spinach this is a certain winner. I wondered why I didn't make this more often than I do, but realized this really isn't a dish for two or for leftovers. This is something you would want to serve at a nice summer dinner or to really show off at a pot luck. Honestly, though, this is one of my favorite dishes and you just have to try it.

Ingredients

For pork
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons olive oil

For glaze
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco

For vinaigrette
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions


Prepare pork:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub.
  3. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.

Make glaze and roast pork:
  1. Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and Tabasco and pat onto top of each tenderloin.
  2. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140°F, about 20 minutes.
  3. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 155°F while standing.)

Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
  1. Whisk together juices, mustard, curry powder, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.

Prepare salad ingredients while pork stands:
  1. Cut peel, including white pith, from oranges with a sharp knife, then cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  2. Toss spinach, cabbage, bell pepper, and raisins in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette.
  3. Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Assemble salad:
  1. Cut pork at a 45-degree angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  2. Line a large platter with dressed salad and arrange sliced pork, oranges, and avocados in rows on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over avocados and oranges.
  3. Pour any juices from skillet over pork.

Romantic Dinner At Home


Joey and I just celebrated our 5th anniversary and wanted to do something really special. However, with Joey's layoff and the cuts at my company, we are counting pennies like everyone else. With that in mind a swanky dinner at Gary Danko was definitely out of the question. I remember Rachel Ray saying, "Nothing says 'I love you' more than a home cooked meal." On that note I am saying, "I love you" all the time, so how could I make this meal special? The menu was easy. I just saw Danny Boome's Hot Date episode so I knew what I wanted to make, but where would we eat?

We live in a very comfy apartment, but the only "dining table" we have is in the kitchen. We usually eat at our coffee table while watching TV. (Boy, that's romantic.) While I do love my kitchen it's about as sexy as a trip to grandma's house, so what was I going to do? Eureka! I am going to move my kitchen table to the living room. Heck, I am gay so naturally every light in my house has a dimmer switch - mood lighting was easy. iTunes would easily provide mood music. I could even stretch it to say the birds would add ambiance. My conundrum was what do to with that table? I decided to go to Ross and see what they had to offer. Oh, goodness, I LOVE a bargain. I found a tablecloth for $5.99; placemats and napkins for $3.99; and candles and candlesticks for $4.00! I even found some heart-shaped dishes for $2.99 each! Wow! All I needed was some flowers and I was good to go. (In all honestly, the flowers were my one extravagance at $15.00.) I set up my table and it looked beautiful.


For my meal, I chose something a bit fancier than our usual fair, but at the same time was easy and timely to make:
Filet Mignon
Potato Gratin
Pan-Fried Asparagus with Shallots
Molton Chocolate Baby Cakes

Well, our meal was a success. I managed to make "homecooked" sexy for the night. Honestly, I could have made Kraft Mac & Cheese and it still would have been special. This really make me think - we don't need to go out to fancy restaurants to celebrate the special times of our life. With a little creativity and love, we can celebrate those times right at home. As Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."





Happy Anniversary, Joey!
Thank you for five amazing years!
Here's to many, many more!
I love you!!!!

Perfect Filet Mignon with Chive Butter


I know, what am I thinking putting Filet Mignon on my blog during "these trying economic times." Well, first off, I am really tired of that expression. I know these are trying times, but we are all going to get by one way or the other. Also, I believe that these times are exactly when we need to treat ourselves every once in awhile. If you are having a special occasion, why not have it at home and get the most out of your hard earned money?

To be honest, we got a pretty good deal on Filet Mignon at Costco, so I needed to find the best way to cook it. The recipe below is really a combination of a lot of recipes I have seen for this. It's a kind of a Tyler-Danny-Rachel-Paula method. I have taken all the best ideas and put them together. The finished product is perfection. Actually, I have to admit this was better than going out to a restaurant and for $5.00 a filet compared to what you would pay at a restaurant, it was well worth it.

The one thing you will need for this is an ovenproof skillet. I have my handy cast iron skillet that is a staple in any kitchen. If you don't have one, you might want to think about one. While I don't use is all the time, the times that I do need it, it's indespensible.

These come out perfectly since you sear them on the stove and then bake them in the oven. Trust me, you may never go out for filet mignon again!

Ingredients

Chive Butter

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch chives

Filets
  • 2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  • Remove filet mignon from refrigerator and allow to get to room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 450°
  • Place butter into a mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir until blended and soft.
  • Take a 12-inch piece of plastic wrap and lay it on the counter.
  • Spoon the butter out onto the center of the plastic wrap and place the chives in the center on top of the butter.
  • Pull the edge over the butter mixture, and tightly pinch the ends, then holding the plastic wrap tightly at each end, pull the mixture towards you. This should create a tight sausage shape. The chives will be in the center surrounded by butter. (Like a sushi roll.)
  • Tie a knot on both ends of the butter roll and place into the freezer until you are ready to place it on top of your cooked filet.
  • Season filet mignon generously with salt and pepper.
  • In a heavy, ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking.
  • Pan-sear the steaks, only on 1 side, for 2 minutes until a crust forms.
  • Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 10 minutes or until cooked medium rare.
  • Remove steaks from oven and let stand for 5 minutes
  • Slice butter into thin coins and place one on each filet
  • Serve and feel fancy

"Rap Chop" featuring Vince (Steve Porter's Slap Chop remix)


My mom LOVED all things "As Seen From TV." She always had a little present for me when I came down that was something she had seen on an infomercial. Often she would call me and leave an "urgent" message to call her immediately. When I would she would say something like, "I saw this cream that will make me look 20 years younger, can you look it up on the computer?"

I saw this video on Facebook yesterday and it immediately reminded me of her. I remember her urgently calling me once and telling me, "You need to see this thing that chops stuff." Had I seen this version of the infomercial, I probably would have bought it.

Watch out this is infectious. I woke up this morning with "Slap Rap" running through my head.


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About Sean & Joey

Joey and I are just a couple of guys living in San Francisco. I love cooking and we both like trying new things. Planning our meals is one of our "together" things. I hope you enjoy our blog! - Sean

Dedication

This blog is dedicated to the two most important people in my life - my mom, Ernee Jean O'Brien, and my partner Joey Concepcion. They both have showered me with unconditional support and love and have always encouraged me to be myself. I will always miss my mom and I don't know what I would do without Joey.

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